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Lauren Tom Sunday 11th October 2009 The 8th Annual GLEH Garden Party held at a private residence Los Angeles, California

Lauren Tom
Lauren Tom

Futurama: Into The Wild Green Yonder Review


Excellent
Bringing back Matt Groening and David X. Cohen's brilliant animated epic Futurama in the form of DVD movies has presented a logistical challenge for the creative minds behind the original TV series: a quartet of movies cover roughly the same amount of space as a season of television, yet tell stories of a completely different size and shape. Though all of the movies have been by turns hilarious and accomplished, and often more than that, they've also felt a bit like two or three episodes stretched and staggered and blended into each other.

Into the Wild Green Yonder, the final-for-now Futurama DVD movie, comes closest to realizing the near-infinite potential of Groening's intricate and inventive world on a narrative level. It begins with a familiar yet, as before, somewhat dissonant approach to a feature-length rhythm: The first 20 minutes, featuring Bender the robot running afoul of the robot mafia in the newly renovated Mars Vegas, more closely resemble a stand-alone episode than just about anything else from the other DVDs.

Continue reading: Futurama: Into The Wild Green Yonder Review

Futurama: The Beast With A Billion Backs Review


Excellent
After Matt Groening's dystopian vision of the future was given a welcome revival with Bender's Big Score, Groening and company have delivered the second of four direct-to-DVD Futurama movies. With the triumph and novelty out of the way, the adventures of unfrozen twentieth-century human Fry (voice of Billy West), the unrequited one-eyed mutant love of his life Leela (voice of Katey Segal), and his miscreant robot best friend Bender (voice of John DiMaggio), among others, can continue with its typical invention. The Beast with a Billion Backs isn't precisely the same as a sequel -- these DVD movies occupy a strange netherworld between supersized episode and full-blown saga -- but if it was, it'd be one of the good ones, like an even-numbered Star Trek movie.

Beast picks up on a dangling plot thread from Score and runs with it; when the Planet Express crew ventures out to investigate a tear in the space-time continuum, they and the rest of Earth (eventually) encounter an encompassing, tentacle-heavy alien life form called Yivo (voiced -- also eventually; Futurama movies offer plenty of skillful digressions -- by David Cross). Yivo's methods are reminiscent of Invasion of the Body Snatchers; its motivations, though, have the murky mix of creepiness and hope more akin to a particularly odd Twilight Zone episode.

Continue reading: Futurama: The Beast With A Billion Backs Review

Bender's Big Score Review


Excellent
Matt Groening's first animated series, The Simpsons, has had the sort of extended (and in television terms, practically infinite) run that confounds just about everyone's expectations. His turn-of-the-millennium second series, Futurama, was an ambitious sci-fi comedy (set in the year 3000) with a far more earthbound trajectory: it lasted four erratically programmed seasons, amassing around 70 wonderful but cult-bound episodes.

Early in Bender's Big Score, a direct-to-DVD revival of the Futurama universe, Groening and his brainy writers have their revenge: Hubert Farnsworth (voice of Billy West) reveals that the "moronic" executives who briefly ran Planet Express, the interplanetary delivery service where all of the main characters work, were not only "themselves fired for incompetence," but beaten up pretty badly, and eventually killed and ground into a fine pink powder. Apparently those imaginary higher-ups (of the "Box Network," naturally) are indispensable in this form, as Torgo's Executive Powder appears throughout the film, put to a variety of uses including fish food, glue, and relieving jock itch.

Continue reading: Bender's Big Score Review

The Joy Luck Club Review


Excellent
SCENE: Two guys shooting baskets at a basketball court. The conversation is mundane, until GUY #1 starts talking about movies.

GUY #1: I don't know how he doesn't sleep with Famke Janssen in that movie, it's friggin' mystifying to me. She's all legs and hair.

Continue reading: The Joy Luck Club Review

Catfish In Black Bean Sauce Review


Good
Now here's an unconventional family for the new decade: two Vietnamese siblings are brought up in California by a black couple; sister Mai marries an Asian, and brother Dwayne's getting engaged to an African-American woman (Love and Basketball's Sanaa Lathan). While this is juicy enough, first time writer/director/actor Chi Moui Lo throws some real spice into his comedy-drama mix: Mai (The Joy Luck Club's Lauren Tom) has found her Vietnamese birth mother, and is bringing her to the States.

Lo, who plays Dwayne, uses these circumstances to attempt an original look at families and their identities, but his basic concepts are better than their execution. The effort is certainly worth noticing -- his script is an impressive debut, trying to flesh out nine closely-knit characters -- but some stale and predictable presentation drags down a strong idea.

Continue reading: Catfish In Black Bean Sauce Review

With Friends Like These... Review


OK
Hollywood farces are always hard to pull off, and this one-joke movie proves increasingly frustrating despite a few bright moments. Robert Costanzo stars as an out-of-work character actor in L.A. who gets the call to read for the part of Al Capone in an upcoming Scorsese film. Of course, he blabs to all his friends and soon enough, they're all up for the part. Most of the film's scenes are predicated by "You gotta promise not to tell anyone..." and of course they invariably do. But backstabbing has never been more repetitive. By the time Scorsese makes his cameo appearance, give yourself a point if you still care who gets the part. Watch for Bill Murray in a stellar yet miniscule role.
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Catfish In Black Bean Sauce Movie Review

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